Are you sick of the battles with your kids every time you want them to do something? Would you like to find a calmer way to get through every day with them?!
Today I have a step-by-step guide for you to shift the dynamic with your kids from conflict and battle, to calm and loving instead.
Plus, I’ve got a downloadable Cheat Sheet “6 ways to Shift from Battle to Calm” full of specific strategies you can use to shift the dynamic when you’re in the heat of the moment trying to get your kids to do something!
First let’s look at where the conflict and battle with our kids really comes from. Ask yourself these questions:
Q1: Is it My Child’s Temperament (Or My Own!)?
The way we parent needs to suit our kids’ temperament. The strong and spirited temperament of some kids means that they’ll tend to meet aggression with aggression, or stubbornness with stubbornness. Taking a hardline approach with these kids inevitably leads to a battle.
I know this first-hand as I have an extremely stubborn and strong-willed daughter! I’ve found that if I get hardline or raise my voice to get her to do something it fails every time! If I want her cooperation I have to be a lot smarter (and calmer and kinder) than that.
Or, rather, perhaps it’s your own temperament or mindset about parenting that could be leading to daily battles. Or it could be both of you (I know that my daughter has inherited her stubborn tendencies from her parents!).
Q2: Is it My Mindset about Being a Parent?
Most of us learn to parent from the way we were parented, and perhaps from our friends or siblings around us who have kids. But it’s important to check out these assumptions – or the mindset – we bring to every interaction with our kids. The ideas we learnt from our family and friends may be out of date and not serving us.
THE OLD STORY: Do you feel like you should be in control of your kids and they should do everything you say? And, if they don’t, then you’re a failure?
This is a common view passed on by previous generations: kids should do what adults say, full stop. But think about this from your kids’ point of view: nobody likes being controlled all the time and to feel like they have no say in their lives.
It’s healthy for kids to rebel against being told what to do all the time – they are learning to assert their own independence.
So if your kids don’t obey your every command, you are not a failure! This is normal, healthy rebellion - so don’t take it personally.
Giving our kids some choices and negotiating with them over things that they care about makes them feel like they have some power in their lives. In the downloadable Cheat Sheet I list some ways you can do this but still keep things on track.
If you want to control your kids, yes you can use threats and fear and shouting and they’ll learn to do what you say to avoid your anger and negative consequences. But they’ll also learn to cooperate out of fear, not because those things are good to do or because they want to please you.
Your child will also internalise a sense of being unloved every time they do something wrong or don’t agree or obey. Plus they may see you as a ticking time bomb that might explode with anger at any time! None of these things are conducive to a loving, calm connection between you.
Let’s start with shifting our mindset about parenting as this could be just the tension release that’s needed (and it’s actually a lot easier to change ourselves than to change others!).
So what’s the NEW STORY? How do we get kids to do things without using fear?!
I like to empathise with my daughter when we’re in a moment of disagreement and think: What if she was my friend? How would I be treating her then? I certainly wouldn’t shout or threaten a friend – so why is it okay to do that with my most beloved person, my child?!
Instead, I see interactions with my daughter as a negotiation, just like with anyone else. The key difference is that she’s only 4 so I need to set clear limits and guide her, since she doesn’t have the knowledge of an adult!
So the key question in a moment of conflict is this:
How can I get my needs met while simultaneously helping my child get his or her needs met?
Getting my needs met means making sure she does the next key thing like eat dinner or take a bath. It means making sure she understands that it’s important and non-negotiable. It doesn’t mean controlling her just for the sake of it.
So what does it mean for her to get her needs met?
Young kids are actually pretty uncomplicated and I believe they are motivated by two very simple things:
1. To feel loved and secure.
2. To have fun!
That means that if we want them to co-operate, we need to find ways to make it fun and playful and/or to help them feel loved and secure with us. So this requires us to remain calm and loving – and use our creativity to turn things into fun!
One side-note: if our kids haven’t got their physical needs met (e.g. they are hungry, tired, or unwell) then it can also cause them to get aggressive or difficult. Connection and making them feel secure is even more crucial in these situations: cuddles are the best way to help them feel better (along with food/drink/sleep of course!).
I want to share a wonderful example with you: one mother, Indira, sent a Facebook message of how she managed to shift the dynamic with her son, who was extremely difficult and tantruming every day.
My 3 y/o son was so aggressive to me, hitting me all the time. I was always gentle to him. Never shouted him just like his dad who says "No!" - very bossy. But that’s not me and never will be. I thought, I am doing something wrong but I will not be shouting neither. So I decided to change myself. Be more playful, less work at home, more careful to him. Take him to parks, swimming, outdoor activities more than I did before. When I ask him something I ask "please", if I do wrong I say "sorry". He is changed a lot. He asks anything politely, he has his tantrums less, and he is now an angel to me just as he is to others. And he feels respected. He is more attached to me than others.
This stuff really works!
Specific Strategies to Help Your Child Do What You Ask
The downloadable Cheat Sheet outlines a number of methods you can use to get them to co-operate. But to simplify things, here is a handy question to remember in the heat of the moment:
How can I make my child feel loved and connected to me OR how can I make this fun for them?
Remember, this will meet their needs. And if we can do this while getting them to do what we want then it’s a win-win outcome!
Here’s an example: your child wants to keep playing with his cars but it’s bathtime. He’s not responding to your requests to go and get in the bath. He clearly just wants to keep having fun. Win-win outcome: find a way to make going to the bath and getting into it fun: e.g. find a new bath toy, let him bring his car in the bath, or offer to play a game with him in the bathroom (we play I Spy!).
For a detailed list of ways to drop the battle and get your child to do what you ask, download the Cheat Sheet. You can print it out as a handy reference when you get to those tricky moments of potential conflict!
May things go smoothly in your house!
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